Coping with the Unknown


  • Sabine Mannitz
  • James Thompson





This special issue brings together research from various disciplines to not only assess the current state of human rights, aid and development projects, and legitimate governing orders – often framed as factors of human security – but also to critically examine the increasing reliance on measures of compliance and progress in these areas, reflecting the current “world of indicators,” as Richard Rottenburg and Sally Engle Merry put it (2015). While the tools and models currently being utilized are indeed quite powerful, the call for different, more effective kinds of knowledge and evaluative instruments in the face of (allegedly increasing) uncertainty, nevertheless, continues to grow at the same time. Yet neither the various political or humanitarian crises, nor the urgent calls to take action are by any means new. Far from representing an unusual state of affairs, uncertainty is both fundamental to the human condition and the world we inhabit. John Dewey (1938) described the very contingency of social life as the starting point for human reflection, for the generation of meaning and social constructions of evaluation.